The Herald Bulletin

January 31, 2014

Anderson, Lapel appear in court over annexation

By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — The city of Anderson doesn't have the right to tell the town of Lapel what to annex, an attorney representing the town argued Friday.

Conversely, Lapel can't annex land if it doesn't follow state law, the city said in a lawsuit pitting the two municipalities.

Lawyers representing Anderson and Lapel met in the Hamilton County courthouse Friday to argue whether Lapel’s annexation of an approximately 200-foot strip of land should stand.

Judge J. Richard Campbell heard oral arguments from Debra Mastrian representing Anderson and Thomas Beeman representing Lapel.

The lawsuit, brought by Anderson, stems from Anderson’s failed attempt to annex land in the Stony Creek and Green townships. After the Anderson City Council torpedoed the project, Lapel annexed the land claiming a super-voluntary annexation. Lapel used this distinction when the 10 homeowners who live in that area asked to be annexed in April.

Anderson decided to challenge that annexation on the grounds that the annexation was not contiguous with Lapel’s current border. According to Indiana law, an annexation must be at least one-eighth congruent to the existing boundary. Mastrian said the land Lapel annexed is only one-eighty third contiguous.

“Lapel’s annexation was illegal,” Mastrian said. “They didn’t meet the contiguity requirements and we have the standing to challenge that.”

Beeman argued Anderson has no right to tell Lapel what it can and can’t annex. He said Anderson has no plan in place for annexing the area in question and shouldn’t be standing in Lapel’s way just because they might try to annex the area in the future.

“Anderson isn’t affected by this action,” Beeman said. “Annexation is a pipe dream of the current administration. They’re not spending any money on this. They don’t pay for the roads out there. They have no right to try and stop this.”

He said the only entities that should have a say in this are the homeowners, and they all want to be in Lapel.

Mastrian agreed the city had no immediate plans to annex the area but said that fact is irrelevant in the current lawsuit.

“That has nothing to do with our standing to challenge Lapel’s annexation,” she said. “They can’t get away with annexations that don’t meet annexation requirements.”

Mastrian warned that allowing this annexation could lead to more annexation from other cities. She cited attempts by Ingalls and Lapel to annex land next to I-69. Ingalls is attempting to expand north of the highway to the area that includes the Pilot Station. Lapel is contemplating an annexation south of the town which would encompass 11 square miles.

Mastrian said towns have to respect the annexation laws. If they don't, there could be no end to where a town might annex if that's what the people in that area want.

Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith said Tuesday he thinks the city has a good claim to the land. He admitted annexing the land might be hard to achieve with the city council still against it, but he still wants that option available for the city.

Campbell took the arguments under advisement and will make a decision at a later date.

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.